The most likely explanation is that those down the well were Jewish and were probably murdered or forced to commit suicide, according to scientists who used a combination of DNA analysis, carbon dating and bone chemical studies in their investigation.
The skeletons date back to the 12th or 13th Centuries at a time when Jewish people were facing persecution throughout Europe.
They were discovered in 2004 during an excavation of a site in the centre of Norwich, ahead of construction of the Chapelfield Shopping Centre. The remains were put into storage and have only recently been the subject of investigation. Seven skeletons were successfully tested and five of them had a DNA sequence suggesting they were likely to be members of a single Jewish family.
DNA expert Dr Ian Barnes, who carried out the tests, said: "This is a really unusual situation for us. This is a unique set of data that we have been able to get for these individuals.
"I am not aware that this has been done before - that we have been able to pin them down to this level of specificity of the ethnic group that they seem to come from."
The team has been led by forensic anthropologist Professor Sue Black, of the University of Dundee's Centre for Anthropology and Human Identification.
Regarding the nature of the discovery, Professor Black said: "We are possibly talking about persecution. We are possibly talking about ethnic cleansing and this all brings to mind the scenario that we dealt with during the Balkan War crimes."
Eleven of the 17 skeletons were those of children aged between two and 15. The remaining six were adult men and women.